What's the deal with tonsil stones? Bad breath, irritation and a whitish mark at the back of your throat are a few signs that you have a tonsil stone. But should you be particularly concerned about them? Not everyone develops tonsil stones and many people who do have them aren't bothered by them. If you are concerned about those white things seemingly embedded in your tonsils, here's everything you ever wanted to know about tonsil stones.
What Causes Tonsil Stones
When you open your mouth and say "ahhh" you can usually see two glands, known as the tonsils, at the back of it. Your tonsils help your immune system as your body's first line of defense by filtering viruses or bacteria that make their way into your body through the mouth.
As gross as it might sound, your tonsils are coated by mucous, which is the same mucous that lines the inside of your mouth. Along this lining there are a number of pits and crevices. How many crevices the tonsils have varies from person to person. It's in these crevices or pits that bits of food, bacteria and other debris can get stuck. The debris calcifies or hardens, turning into a tonsil stone. If you regularly have inflammation or irritation in your tonsils, you are more likely to develop tonsil stones.
Are They Causing Your Bad Breath?
Many people with tonsil stones don't have any problems with them as they are uncommon and usually very small when they do occur. Although many people with tonsil stones don't have any symptoms and might not even be able to see their tonsil stones, bad breath and other signs and symptoms can be connected to them.
Tonsil stones can be responsible for halitosis and can be prevented by rinsing with mouthwash, brushing the teeth and tongue at least twice a day, avoiding a diet high in dairy, and even just by drinking water after a meal to clear out any remaining food particles in the mouth and throat.
Other Tonsil Stone Troubles
The larger the tonsil stone is, the more likely it is to cause symptoms. Tonsil stones are also known to cause ear pain or a sore throat accompanied by trouble swallowing food and liquids.
What You Can Do About Them
Bad breath, trouble swallowing and inflammation – tonsil stones aren't fun. The good news is that problems from tonsil stones are rare. The even better news is that you can prevent them from occurring.
Brushing your teeth regularly will sweep any food bits, bacteria and other debris out of your mouth before it has a chance to get stuck in the tonsils. If you're concerned about bad breath, whether related to tonsil stones or not, rinsing with a mouthwash will help freshen your breath and help reduce the majority of germs in the mouth.
If tonsil stones are causing you a lot of discomfort or other troubles, you'll want to speak with your dentist or doctor. Although it's not performed as often today as it once was, sometimes a tonsillectomy, or surgically removing the tonsils, is the best way to prevent tonsil stones and any other issues you have with the tonsils.
Think of your tonsils like the appendix of your mouth. They help your immune system, but if they're causing you trouble, you can live without them.